Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nicotine Creates Stronger Memories, Cues To Drug Use

Date:
September 10, 2009
Source:
Baylor College of Medicine
Summary:
Ever wonder why former smokers miss lighting up most when they are in a bar or after a meal with friends? Researchers say nicotine, the addictive component in cigarettes, "tricks" the brain into creating memory associations between environmental cues and smoking behavior.

New research shows that nicotine, the addictive component in cigarettes, "tricks" the brain into creating memory associations between environmental cues and smoking behavior.
Credit: iStockphoto/Kutay Tanir

Ever wonder why former smokers miss lighting up most when they are in a bar or after a meal with friends?

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine say nicotine, the addictive component in cigarettes, "tricks" the brain into creating memory associations between environmental cues and smoking behavior. The findings appear in the current issue of the journal Neuron.

"Our brains normally make these associations between things that support our existence and environmental cues so that we conduct behaviors leading to successful lives. The brain sends a reward signal when we act in a way that contributes to our well being," said Dr. John A. Dani, professor of neuroscience at BCM and co-author of the study. "However, nicotine commandeers this subconscious learning process in the brain so we begin to behave as though smoking is a positive action."

Dani said that environmental events linked with smoking can become cues that prompt the smoking urge. Those cues could include alcohol, a meal with friends, or even the drive home from work. To understand why these associations are so strong, Dani and Dr. Jianrong Tang, instructor of neuroscience at BCM and co-author of the report, decided to record brain activity of mice as they were exposed to nicotine, the addictive component of tobacco.

The mice were allowed to roam through an apparatus with two separate compartments. In one compartment, they received nicotine. In the other, they got a benign saline solution. Later, the researchers recorded how long the mice spent in each compartment. They also recorded brain activity within the hippocampus, an area of the brain that creates new memories.

"The brain activity change was just amazing," Dani said. "Compared to injections of saline, nicotine strengthened neuronal connections – sometimes up to 200 percent. This strengthening of connections underlies new memory formation."

Consequently, mice learned to spent more time in the compartment where the nicotine was administered compared to the one where saline was given to them.

"We found that nicotine could strengthen neuronal synaptic connections only when the so called reward centers sent a dopamine signal. That was a critical process in creating the memory associations even with bad behavior like smoking."

Dani said understanding mechanisms that create memory could have implications in future research and treatments for memory disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, and for dopamine signaling disorders, such as Parkinson's disease.

This study was supported by the National Institute of Neurology Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute of Drug Abuse.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Baylor College of Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Baylor College of Medicine. "Nicotine Creates Stronger Memories, Cues To Drug Use." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909122052.htm>.
Baylor College of Medicine. (2009, September 10). Nicotine Creates Stronger Memories, Cues To Drug Use. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909122052.htm
Baylor College of Medicine. "Nicotine Creates Stronger Memories, Cues To Drug Use." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909122052.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins